A number of years ago, I was teaching a class in the Synagogue, it was during one of our weekly sessions in Bible study, when a bright young man, who was then in Dental school, made a comment that stuck with me. He said, ‘All of the miracles that we have been studying are very impressive– the Ancient Egyptians being smitten with the plagues, then the splitting of the sea. It’s all great but it happened so long ago. I don’t need all of that to happen, if God would show me just one miracle then I would believe.’
I thought about his remark for some time till I came to the realization that he had stumbled upon one of the very basic tenets of our belief system.
I asked my young friend if he thought that miracles make a person believe in God. He answered, ‘Of course, anyone would believe if they had seen the type of miracles described in the Bible.’
I said to him, “I have one simple question. Why didn’t the Ancient Egyptians believe in God?”
“What do you mean, they were ‘wicked’ they were the ones who wanted to kill the Jews” he answered.”
I understand, but they experienced the very same miracles that the Jewish nation did. They lived through the entire 10 plagues. They saw the same manifestation of God’s hand, as the Jews did, yet the vast majority of them never came to any recognition of the dominion of God. Quite the opposite, till the bitter end most of them denied God. According to your thesis that miracles make a person believe in God, how could that be? How could a nation live through such obvious and clear miracles and not believe?
To put this question into better focus, let’s imagine what is was like to be an Egyptian living at that time. Let’s picture Anwar, a simple, reasonably honest, hard working land owner, standing in the hot sun wondering how he is going to get his cows to market. Along comes his friend Nachmad.
“Hey Anwar, did you hear what’s going on?” Nachmad asks.
“Well, this tall, majestic, Hebrew named Moses comes walking into the palace with his brother Aaron, and starts threatening King Pharaoh.”
“Hey that’s not too bright, Anwar responds, “Remember what happened to the last guy who tried that, Pharaoh’s wife is now using his dried bones for clothing pins.”
“Yeah, but anyway, he says that God sent him to tell Pharaoh to let the Jewish people go”
“Which God sent him?”
“No, not one of our Gods, Moses is talking about this super God, who he says created the heavens and earth and runs everything.”
“Oh come now Nachmad, everyone thinks that their God is the best.”
“No, no, you don’t understand, he started doing all of these freaky things. First he threw his staff down on the ground and it turned into a snake. Then he put his hand in his shirt and it came out white with Leprosy. Then finally, he threw water on the ground and it turned into blood. And here’s the kicker, he threatened that if Pharaoh doesn’t let the Jewish people go, this God of his is going to turn all of the water in all of Egypt into blood”
“Oh come now, Nachmad, do you really believe that?”
“Well, I may or may not. But I’ll tell you this much, Pharaoh sure took him seriously.
Now Anwar worshipped his fair share of Idols in his day– not really sure that he believes in any of them — but why take chances, so he makes sure to hide away a couple of extra barrels of water just in case.
Then on the appointed day at the appointed time, lo and behold all of the water in all of Egypt turns into blood. Not just the water in Nile, The water in the sinks, the water in the bathtubs, the water in the barrels, the water in the fields, all of the water anywhere to be found turns into blood. If an Egyptian had water stored in the basement, it turned to blood. If he stored some in a jug in his attic it turned to blood. If he bit into a fruit instead of juice he got a spurt of blood.
Let’s keep in mind that blood isn’t just red, colored water, it is thick and it smells. Wherever there had been water it was now blood — except for water owned by the Jews. If a Jewish person was drinking water it remained water.
Now, let us imagine that our friend Anwar has a few Jewish slaves, one of whom is working in the fields that day. While watching all of this, Anwar says to himself, “I may not be the sharpest triangle in the pyramid but even I can figure out that something is going on here.” He calls over his Jewish slave who is happily drinking a glass of cool fresh water.
“Hey Isaac, come here.”
“What is that you are drinking”?
“It’s water, sir.”
“Yeah, I know that. Now wipe that smirk off your face, and give me some of that.
So the Jewish slave hands the cup of water over, and as the cup passes from his hand to the hand of his Egyptian master, it turns from water into blood.
“Hey take that back!” Anwar screams.
As the Isaac takes back the cup it turns back from blood into water.
Anwar says, “Now give me that!”
Again no sooner does the cup leave Isaac’s hand; then it turns back to blood. And this goes on back and forth, water blood, water blood, water blood.
Finally Anwar thinks for a moment and says.
“Now listen here, you and I are going to drink at the same time. As I put my lips to the cup, you are going to do the same thing. And remember, no tricks or I will whip you, understand?!”
They both stand there lips pressed against the cup.
“Ready. One, two, three…. Ughhhhhh!” Anwar shrieks, spitting out blood, while our friend Isaac is drinking clear fresh water.
Now, that is a very impressive feat. It isn’t everyday that all of the water in all of Egypt turns into blood. The concept that every person living in Egypt saw clearly and directly was, that God is the one Who controls nature. How does liquid changes from one state to another, depending upon who was holding it? The message that God was delivering as clear as day was that blood is red and thick because God so decrees it should be. The minute God decrees that it should be otherwise it changes to clear drinking water. There is no such thing as the laws of nature existing independently of God, rather those are the rules and guidelines that God uses to run this world, the moment that He so see fit to change it; it is as if they never were.
This wasn’t some theoretical concept that the Egyptian’s were exposed to. This was something that every Egyptian man, woman, and child saw in front of their eyes. There was no room for doubt because of the clarity with which they saw this. They lived through an undeniable demonstration of God’s control over every facet of nature. And they saw that God was there in their everyday life. Not a million miles away up in heaven far away. But right there. And yet they didn’t come to belief.
What is even more astounding is that God could have taken the Jewish nation out of Egypt in any manner which He chose. The reason He chose to do it this way was to make it clear for all to see that God is present in the world, so that anyone witnessing these events would come to the inescapable conclusion: there is a God in the world who controls and runs the world. This was to be one time in history that God would show his dominion over nature, so that all future generations should be able to point back at that moment, as a basis for their belief.
Yet the amazing fact was that the Egyptians did not come to that belief! They lived through all of the miracles of the plagues, seeing God right there, and still they didn’t reach the most compelling and obvious conclusion: This is the hand of God. Till the bitter end, almost all of the Egyptian’s denied that they were witnessing the hand of God.
We have to ask ourselves how that could be. How could intelligent, reasonable people see such clear manifestations of God’s hand, and not believe?